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The Kudzu Robot – Creeping to a Construction Site Near You

Jul 27, 2017

Stanford scientists have developed the first snaking robot. It moves like a vine. One developer says her imagination went to previous observations of English ivy. But, it reminds me of kudzu. The Japanese introduced kudzu to the United States during the world’s fair of 1876 in Philadelphia, PA. It took about 50 years for the vine to “take hold”. The uses of this new type of robot could be adapted much quicker. From the medical operating room, to search and rescue attempts, and to future construction sites delivering hand tools or guiding wire or cable into tricky workspaces, this robot offers a great deal of promise where we work. The applications of this new technology are broad. Stanford’s researchers on this project have creatively designed this new robot to expand from the 11-inch casing up to 236 feet in length. That’s a 25,000% increase in size or reach. It has a payload of up to 150 lbs. With enough pressure, sliding under doors and turning corners, it can maneuver through a crack, over a pipe, and pull down on a valve. This sort of task could protect the lives of rescuers during a gas leak. 

Watch clip on how the vine-like robot works:

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 12.13.39 PM
Click to watch on YouTube »

The only thing that kills kudzu is the kudzu beetle. But, the uses of kudzu are famed and part of American (Southern) folklore. Any of us growing up in the rural deep-south knows first and foremost that kudzu stops erosion. Harvard medical researchers have developed an extract that fights alcoholism. When grass isn’t plenteous, horses, cows and deer can graze on kudzu leaves. If you haven’t tried “fried kudzu” you might like the crispy potato-chip-like result. There’s kudzu tea and of course kudzu honey that has a purple tint from the bloom of the kudzu flower. And now --- electricians may be running wire with the aid of the “kudzu robot”.

Read articles about the vine-like robot and kudzu.

“I thought the whole world would someday be covered by it, that it would grow as fast as Jack’s beanstalk, and that every person on earth would have to live forever knee-deep in its leaves.” Kudzu, as referenced by Willie Morris in “Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood”.

NECA Technology – the Project for Applied and Disruptive Technology, explores the world of technology and keeps members informed of what’s happening today, and of what will be launched in the not too distant future.  Dr. Joey Shorter has an extensive background in education and experience in translating the work of academics into understandable, practical ideas.